A standard email composition window has a To field, a Sender field, and a subject field. You might also see two other fields: CC and BCC. These two fields aren’t mandatory fields i.e., you can send an email without filling them in, and they may often be hidden from the default UI.
CC and BCC
CC and BCC fields are fields for entering an email or several emails. When you send a message, everyone included in the To, CC, and BCC fields will receive it.
CC stands for Carbon Copy and BCC stands for Blind Carbon Copy. If you’re not sure what carbon copy means, it a term coined from a real-world relic; carbon paper. Carbon paper is paper, coated in ink (that will stain your hands and everything else it comes in contact with). It’s inserted between two papers. You write on the paper on the top, and it’s automatically copied to the paper below courtesy of the carbon paper.
It’s important to know that CC and BCC does not send separate messages. The same message, same thread, is sent to everyone.
Difference between CC and BCC
Email addresses that are entered in the CC field are visible to everyone else that the message is sent to. If you CC someone on an email, the recipients that were added in the To field will be able to see everyone included in the CC field.
Email addresses that are entered in the BCC field are not visible to anyone. They’re ‘blind’ or hidden. If you want to send an email to someone, but also include someone else in the list of recipients without other people finding out, the BCC field is the tool for the job.
Email etiquette: Using CC
There are no laws and scriptures about using CC and BCC. There is, however email etiquette that you should follow when using these fields. Failure to do so will earn you enemies at work.
The CC field should be used when;
- You want to keep someone in the loop about something but that does not require a reply from them
- You feel the message is something the person may need to know about at some point
- A mutual supervisor
- Supervisor/manager for you and the other person, if you work in different departments/sections. This is best used if the supervisor/manager requires documentation of when work is assigned between departments.
When not to use CC;
- To keep a supervisor in the loop when it isn’t needed.
- To use the message as a documentation of the work you’re doing
- To prove a point
Contradictory use of CC;
You should not unnecessarily use CC and include people in messages when they do not need to be included. That said, if you suspect that a co-worker isn’t going to follow up on something unless a supervisor is included in the message, you may as well add them in.
You should also use it if a manager demands proof that you’re working.
Email etiquette: Using BCC
Using BCC basically means you’re ‘telling’ on someone. Use this cautiously. No one knows who else has received the message when you add people to the BCC field. Think of it as secretly recording a meeting or allowing someone to listen in.
BCC should be used sparingly and carefully. There will be a time when you need to use it and it will be obvious when you need to do so. Outside that, don’t BCC people in emails. Use the CC field instead.
The BCC field is hidden so no one will know that you used it. The CC field is not hidden and it’s use will be obvious. Recipients will know if they were added to the CC or the BCC field. Make sure people you BCC don’t end up using the Reply All button.